This article was originally published on 1 February 2021 and updated to reflect the revised vaccination guidelines.
In January 2021, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP) to provide financial assistance for affected persons in the rare event of serious side effects that are assessed to be related to COVID-19 vaccines administered in Singapore.
To be clear, MOH has stated that it is introducing this programme to give greater peace of mind for those in Singapore who choose to take the vaccination, and not because taking the vaccination may cause serious side effects. Similar to other vaccinations that we take, whether as children or adults, any vaccinations can cause side effects.
As shared by the Health Science Authority (HSA), among more than 113,000 individuals who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, there were 432 adverse event reports of side effects. Most of these reports were for regular symptoms such as injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, giddiness, nausea and allergic reactions (such as itch, rash, swelling of eyes/lip). These symptoms generally resolved on their own within a few days.
There were 3 cases of individuals, in their 20s and 30s, who reported anaphylaxis (rapid onset of severe allergic reactions). Symptoms developed were rash, breathlessness, lip swelling, throat tightness and giddiness. These were quickly resolved by healthcare professionals.
Severe allergic reactions could include eye, mouth, or facial swelling, difficulty in breathing and/or a fall in blood pressure. Anyone who develops anaphylaxis to the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine should not receive the second dose.
As MOH also highlighted in their media release, “the benefits of getting vaccinated to protect oneself from the effects of severe COVID-19 disease and its complications far outweigh the risk of any potential adverse events known to be associated with vaccination.”
As of 3 May 2021, 30 cases out of 104 applications have received financial assistance under the scheme.
What The Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP) Covers Us For?
The vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP) provides us on three levels of coverage.
#1 A one-time pay-out of $225,000 will be provided to an individual who dies or suffers permanent severe disability as a result of COVID-19 vaccination.
#2 A one-time pay-out of up to $10,000 will be provided to an eligible individual who is hospitalised requiring care in the High Dependency or Intensive Care Unit but subsequently recovers from medically significant serious side effects; and
#3 A one-time pay-out of $2,000 will be provided to an individual who requires inpatient hospitalisation and medical intervention, with subsequent recovery (excluding observation in A&E, without subsequent inpatient admission or medical intervention)
Who Is Covered Under The Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP)?
To qualify for the vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP), individuals must be Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident or long-term pass holder who has received an approved COVID-19 vaccination in Singapore. Also, the side effects have to be serious that is potentially life-threatening or fatal and requires hospitalisation or has caused persistent incapacity or disability. The serious side effects must be assessed by a doctor to be linked to the individual’s COVID-19 vaccination.
For VIFAP application, MOH has appointed an independent clinical panel comprising experts in relevant fields such as neurology, immunology and infectious diseases to assess and VIFAP applications.
As of 31 May 2021 Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference, the vaccination recommendations for various groups are being reviewed. While previously not recommended for 1) pregnant women, 2) severely immunocompromised persons, and 3)children under the age of 16 years for now, these guidelines are revised.
Students will be vaccinated from 1 June 2021 onwards, with priority to students sitting for their O, N and A level examinations as well as special needs students. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are also able to be vaccinated. Cancer patients on active treatment can be vaccinated, but should do so in a hospital setting, after assessment by their treating specialists on their suitability for the vaccine.
The vaccination guidelines are still being reviewed for those with a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.